I recently ran across two resources that I wanted to pass along to you as you prepare your heart to mourn on Good Friday and to celebrate on Easter Sunday. It is this combination of mourning and celebration together that gives our worship mystery and beauty and power. Like no other events in human history, Christ’s death and resurrection fuse suffering and rejoicing, rejection and glory, tragedy and comedy. If we are to celebrate fully, we need to enter into both sides of the Easter event–the death and the resurrection.
The Kind of Relationship God Wants with You
For me, the best way for me to reflect on all that the cross and resurrection mean is to place myself within the true story of the Bible. One way to do this is to consider the wedding imagery the Bible uses to describe our relationship with God.
The wedding is one of the most powerful and poignant images the Bible utilizes. Marriage is rightfully a relationship shared between a husband and wife who have devoted themselves exclusively to one another. When I perform a wedding ceremony, we speak of the importance of the covenant relationship, of two becoming one, of an inseparable union. Then, the bride and groom exchange rings as an announcement to the whole world that these two are committed to one another only.
God chose the most intimate human relationship, marriage, as the example of the type of relationship he wants to have with us. Like a groom, he initiates and pursues and woos. He declares his loyal love for his people, in spite of all their brokenness. And he calls us to respond to him in loyal love and faithfulness.
Unfortunately, God’s people have often had divided hearts which led to spiritual unfaithfulness. God’s jealousy burns strong for his beloved bride, even as she commits spiritual adultery. Where she is false, he remains true. His loyal-love is strong in spite of her weakness.
Nowhere in the Bible is this picture displayed more clearly than in the Old Testament prophet of Hosea. In this book, Hosea is commanded by God to marry a woman who would prostitute herself to others in spite of Hosea’s faithfulness.
My friends at Irving Bible Church, have captured a contemporary version of Hosea’s story in a powerful series of six short films. They total less than 20 minutes of viewing. These shorts stirred my mind and my heart, so I wanted to post them here. I’ve included some of my thoughts and questions to help you process as you watch. My hope is that the films will pull you into the story of love, betrayal, and redemption. This was the story of Hosea. This is our story too.
#1 – The Covenant Love of God (Hosea 1 – 2:1):
To think about: Have you ever entered into a personal relationship with God? What does it mean that God pursues you like a faithful groom pursues his bride? Have you ever considered that every beautiful love story the world has ever known pales in comparison to the great love of God? Can you imagine betraying a love like that?
#2 – The Tough Love of God (Hosea 2:1-13):
To think about: We all have divided hearts. In what specific ways have you allowed your heart to be divided and distracted from your love of God? God is a jealous God who wants your whole heart. The Bible says that God disciplines those he loves. Are you experiencing God’s tough love that wants you to come home?
#3 – The Tender Love of God (Hosea 2:14-23):
To think about: Do you see areas where you have betrayed the love of God? Have you become attached to lesser loves that will never satisfy you fully and forever? God is patient and slow to anger and abounding in loyal love for those that are his. Will you receive the mercy and forgiveness that he offers to you when you have strayed?
#4 – The Redeeming Love of God (Hosea 3):
To think about: Do you sense God calling you to let go of false loves and come home? What biblical truth can you depend on even when you don’t feel God’s presence? How do you know that he loves you (hint: the cross says he loves you no matter what)? God’s redemption is not based on our goodness, but on Jesus’ goodness. He knows all the bad we’ve done, and he comes to redeem us anyway. Will you accept that redemption?
#5 – The Love of God: Our Response (Hosea 6):
To think about: Have you decided? The choice is yours. His love is greater than your brokenness. Is it hard for you to trust a grace like this? Does your past or your hurt keep you from trusting God’s love? What would it take for you to have faith in God’s redeeming love?
#6 – The Relentless Love of God (Hosea 14):
To think about: Are you dealing with the consequences of your bad choices? Do your circumstances make it hard for you to believe in an unfailing love? What does it mean that God loves you in spite of your sinfulness? Can you–right now and in this moment–trust the relentless love of God that came for you?
What does Hosea have to do with Easter?
The true story of Easter is this: we were created by God who loved us deeply, but we did not love him in return. Instead of enjoying him as he intended, we betrayed him and gave ourselves to lesser lovers. Though we deserved to be cast out and abandoned, he came to rescue us. Putting himself in our place on the cross, Jesus took our punishment, our suffering, and our death. But the tragedy of his death turned into the comedy of new life. Everything turned upside down. Pain was really payment, loss was really gain, dying was really salvation. When Jesus rose from the dead and rolled away the stone, our entire world reversed course. Those who were guilty were righteous. Those who were doubters believed. Those who denied him began to proclaim him. Those who had run away returned home. Those who rebelled renewed their relationship. Love was now sure, and hope was now certain. Easter changed everything. And it still changes everything for those who believe.
Wherever you find yourself in the Easter story, Jesus’ death and resurrection are strong enough for you. May you trust and treasure Jesus more than ever.
If you would like to think more on this…
My friend, Jason Johnson, had an excellent post this week on Easter and the Great Wedding to Come. This gives a biblical / theological look at the marriage imagery and our connection with God. I’d encourage you to give it a read as you continue to reflect on this amazing relationship God offers to us. We have much to look forward to.